Friday, June 1, 2012

CITY HALL EYEBALL: Condon claims sweeping mandate to reform city

Posted By on Fri, Jun 1, 2012 at 12:31 PM

In a press conference packed with announcements and changes, Spokane Mayor David Condon today claimed a mandate to completely remake city government.

“I was elected to make significant changes in the administration of the city,” Condon told reporters as he announced half a dozen changes to how the city runs.

He also may have purposely tweaked Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart.When asked whether Condon was stepping on the council’s toes by arbitrarily eliminating the city’s real-estate program last week, the mayor said: “I think having a good tension between the legislative branch and the executive branch is very fruitful.”

Bam. Almost the exact same words Stuckart used earlier in the year about the council asserting its independence from the mayor’s office.

Here, in short, were Condon's announcements:

1. Acting Police Chief Scott Stephens will not be applying for the permanent chief position. Condon says he wants someone with "metro" experience, which we define as something bigger or more sophisticated than Spokane.

2. To that end, Condon is rebooting the police chief search, saying he wants "a larger and more diverse pool to select potential candidates," with applications due by June 30. The city hopes to have its "magical unicorn chief," as we shall heretofore call it, by August. 

3. While Condon expressed concern that Spokane now leads the state in crime rates, he wouldn't commit to hiring more police officers. 

4.  Hizzoner announced more consolidation of city departments: the Street Department into the Business and Developer Services Division; water, wastewater, and solid waste, along with fleet services into Romero’s Utilities Division; the small Business and Development Services Department will fold into the Planning Department.

5. Rick Romero, the city's internal auditor, is becoming head of that new Utility Division. Condon says that Romero's lack of experience in anything utility-related doesn't concern the mayor because utilities are pretty heavily regulated. Says Condon: “At this time, it’s a financing issue with our utilities . . . [Romero] comes with a finance background.”

6. Gerry Gemmill, a manager in the current Public Works and Utilities Department, will work out of the mayor’s office as director of local government and labor relations. That will surely be a fun job.

7. Condon also announced a task force to examine how to consolidate the city’s Human Services and Community Development departments, since both deal with lots of federal grants.

Condon didn’t say whether any of these consolidations would lead to city layoffs. But his elimination of the real-estate program laid off two employees effective tomorrow, so don’t be surprised if the undertaker comes.

For more fun lists and notes on the administration of local government, step into our white, windowless van of news.  

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